Thursday, May 31, 2012

Confederations Cup venues announced

Brazil has revealed the venues for the 2013 Confederations Cup, the now traditional warm-up for the following season's World Cup Finals.
Brasil 2013.
The six stadia for the eight-team competition are as follows:

Belo Horizonte (Mineirao) - 70,000
Brasilia (Nacional) - 71,500
Fortaleza (Castelao) - 67,000
Recife (Pernambuco) - 44,000
Rio (Maracana) - 76,500
Salvador (Fonte Nova) - 56,500

The tournament, which will take place between the 15th and 30th of June 2013, has five of the eight finalists confirmed already.

Qualifiers:
BRAZIL (hosts)
SPAIN (World Cup holders)
URUGUAY (Copa America holders) 
MEXICO (Gold Cup holders)
JAPAN (Asian Cup holders)
+
UEFA European champions (June 2012)
Oceania OFC Nations Cup winner (June 2012)
AFC African champions (Jan/Feb 2013)

Brazil will kick-off in the nation's capital Brasilia on the 15th of June next year before playing their other group games in Fortaleza and Salvador. The final is in the Maracana in Rio on the 30th.

The finals draw takes place in Sao Paulo on the 24th of November this year.

The seleçao will be going for a hat-trick of Confederations Cups, having won the 2005 edition in Germany, beating Argentina 4-1 in the final, and the 2009 tournament in South Africa, coming from 2-0 down to beat the USA 3-2.




-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Finally Some Football For South Korea

Finally Some Football For South Korea.
It has been a strange few weeks for Korean football and the fact that the final round of qualification for the 2014 World Cup is about to start has almost been forgotten.

National team head coach Choi Kang-hee has been one of the most successful coaches in Korea and Asia over the last few years but increasingly in recent weeks he has been looking stressed. That never happened when he was leading Jeonbuk Motors to domestic and continental titles but his position has changed. With the national team, he has even tried to smile in front of the cameras; it is all a little unnerving for fans.

The first issue was all about Park Chu-young. Even when it comes to football, the fact that Korea's star striker had played just seven minutes of Premier League action since joining Arsenal last summer, would have put his place in the squad for the friendly against Spain and the matches against Qatar and Lebanon in doubt.

But this was not just about the football. The March announcement that the player had been given the opportunity to delay his military service for 10 years due to the fact he had been granted a right of residency in Monaco (after a three year spell at the club) overshadowed pretty much everything in Korean fotoball. The nation was divided among those that were happy to see Park complete his duty in his mid-thirties and those that saw an already privileged person gaining another advantage not open to the average man on the street.

Choi was caught in the middle. Attempts to get Park to talk to the Korean media were, according to KFA officials, refused by the player. In the build-up to the announcement of the squad, there were unsuccessful attempts to contact Park and in the end, he was omitted from the squad. “The door is always open,” said Choi but something will have to happen before Park can walk through it. He has said nothing, nobody actually knows where he is and there are suspicisons that he does not really want to play for the national team.

In the absence of the Arsenal player, Choi is keeping faith with his Jeonbuk star striker from the last couple of years. Lee Dong-gook has been scoring plenty of goals in the K-League and in Asia for a while now and is likely to start against Qatar and Lebanon.

The coach has also been looking to another Jeonbuk favourite to provide the ammunition for the Lion King as well as add to the team’s firepower himself. The only problem is that the player Choi has in mind is not actually Korean.

Eninho has been adding Brazilian flair to the K-league since 2007 and came into his own after joining Jeonbuk in 2009. A creator, finisher and dead-ball specialist, he was just what Choi wanted.

"The Korean national football team manager is an imperative position," Choi said earlier in May. "It has to win by any means possible; thus, I will try my best to do everything in my power." The debate grew as the coach acknowledged. "The issue has deviated in a way I have not imagined. If I proceed with the plan for my personal gain, I should be held accountable for it."

The Korean FA took the issue to the Korea Olympic Committee (KOC) in mid-May. The hope was that the body would recommend to the Ministry of Justice that Eninho should be fast-tracked into dual-nationality. In mid-May, the committee knocked back the initial request, saying that the country had ample alternatives to the Brazilian.

Choi was not impressed. "I wonder if the KOC seriously looked into his performance and sincerity. I would like to ask if they know how desperate the situation is regarding the manager asking for special naturalization for him. It may be against Korean cultural norms, but I want him."

The KFA tried again on May 19, confident that legally, there was no reason for the KOC to refuse but the outcome was the same.

"There was lot of debate and thoughtful consideration, but we didn't find significant factors to change our original result from the first review," KOC Secretary General Choi Jong-jun said after the meeting. “Special naturalization gives a person dual citizenship and waives naturalization tests, but in exchange for that, a basic understanding of Korean culture and language is essential. However, we thought he lacked effort in those parts.”

The KFA eventually admitted defeat and the issue has been put to bed - for now. There are other things to think about, not least the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Qatar on June 8 and at home to Lebanon on June 12. All are relieved that there is finally some football to talk about.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can the Celts host Euro 2020?

At first glance it did not look serious.

Two last-minute expressions of interest in hosting Euro 2020 were registered before the deadline to add to Turkey's existing one.

One came from Georgia and the other was a joint proposal from Eire, Scotland and Wales.

The Turkish government had been desperate for rivals to the Turkish FA's bid to emerge so UEFA lent on two groups to express an interest. 2020 is also Olympic year and Istanbul is in the running for the rings against Baku, Doha, Madrid and Tokyo.

The Ankara government would much prefer the Games to the Euros, so was dismayed when Germany pulled out of the Euro 2020 race, leaving Turkey as the sole bidder. The International Olympic Commission has made it clear no country can host both tournaments in one summer.


With 24 finalists involved, whichever host is chosen will have to provide ten up-to-date stadia, two holding a minimum of 50,000 seats, three at least 40,000 and four 30,000.

It is hard to see how Georgia (pop. 4.5 million), despite its growing economy, will be able to muster that many arenas, while its infrastructure surely also requires a miracle.

The tri-Celtic bid also looks a long shot, although not impossible, as a number of large and modern arenas with experience of hosting football already exist in those countries:

  1. Croke Park (Eire) 82,000
  2. Millennium Stadium (Wales) 74,000
  3. Murrayfield (Scotland)  67,000
  4. Celtic Park (Scotland) 60,000
  5. Hampden Park (Scotland) 52,000
  6. Aviva Stadium (Eire) 51,000
  7. Ibrox (Scotland) 51,000
These seven compare very favourably in terms of size and access, being based in Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Wales has two other modern football stadia whose capacities could be increased without too much difficulty - Cardiff City Stadium (built 2009, 27,000 seats) and Swansea's Liberty Stadium (2005, 20,500).

Ireland's other football stadia are nothing to write home about, although it has a dozen Gaelic football stadia with capacities of 30,000 or more, but they are mostly standing venues, while the only all-seated stadia of sufficient size reside in tiny towns which would be too small to host Euro 2020.

In terms of access, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Wexford or Waterford would be the realistic candidates to have their arenas rebuilt.

Although giving out three automatic qualification spots is unprecedented, the transport connections are probably easier than between Poland and Ukraine, the hoteliers less likely to overcharge and the police more trustworthy.

More importantly, the presence of a competitor allows Istanbul to challenge for the Olympics in the final IOC vote in Buenos Aires in September 2013. The Euro 2020 decision is not until the following Spring, which allows Turkey the back-up of the European Championships.

Turkey is still the outstanding candidate for Euro 2020, having narrowly missed out on hosting Euro 2016 to France. As a  strategic geo-political bridge between the Islamic world and the West, the large nation on the edge of Europe is high on the politicians' list of priorities.

But should Istanbul get the nod for the summer games, the Euros could be heading back to the British Isles for the first time since England hosted 1996.

- Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Bob on the ball

Having just watched the engrossing documentary, "Marley", it is worth remembering how much the beautiful game meant to the legendary reggae singer and cultural figure.

Despite hailing from the cricket-loving Jamaica, Bob Marley played football almost as much as he played music and was never far from a ball and a kickabout with his friends.

When he took over the mansion of 56, Hope Road in the Jamaican capital Kingston, an exclusive street which was home to the Prime Minister and other dignitaries, he converted the large front yard into a football field, nicknamed 'the stadium', where he would play on a daily basis.

Many photos remain of the rastafarian icon with a football, including ones of him in Battersea Park, London, his home in the mid 1970s. Although a famous Pan-Africanist, his father was actually a white Jamaican of English stock with his roots in Sussex.

Coming from Jamaica to England was thus in a sense returning to half of his roots, as well as to the homeland of the sport he loved so much.

"Football is whole universe to itself," Marley explained. "I love it because you have to be skilful to play it, you know. When we play football, we're playing music."

When asked why he said of football, "I need it", he replied simply, "freedom - because football is freedom."

Tragically, the global phenomenon that was Bob Marley came to an end in 1981, when he fell ill with malignant melanoma. Flying home to Jamaica after unsuccessful cancer treatment in Germany, Marley died in Miami, aged only 36.

The loss to Jamaica, reggae, black identity and the world was immense, though his message of love and music of happiness remains, in football as elsewhere.

What a shame he did not live to see Jamaica reach their first ever World Cup, at France 1998.

No doubt had he lived, Bob would have been there in person to serenade the Reggae Boyz' finest hour as they won their first ever finals match, against Japan.



-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Premier Predictions 13 May 2012

Last time out George got 5 results right and one perfect score. So it's looking like City will clinch their first Premier League title to join Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United as winners of the EPL.

Sunday 13th May 2012

Chelsea 5 v Blackburn Rovers 0
Everton 2 v Newcastle United 0
Manchester City 3 v Queens Park Rangers 0
Norwich City 2 v Aston Villa 0
Stoke City 2 v Bolton Wanderers 1
Sunderland 0 v Manchester United 1
Swansea City 2 v Liverpool 2
Tottenham Hotspur 3 v Fulham 1
West Bromwich Albion 0 v Arsenal 2
Wigan Athletic 3 v Wolverhampton Wanderers 2

Last time's Premier League predictions

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fifa World Rankings May 2012

Fifa World Rankings May 2012.
Fifa's World Rankings for May 2012 were published today at FIFA HQ in Zurich, Switzerland.

2010 World Cup winners Spain remain on top followed by Germany, Copa America champions Uruguay, the Netherlands, and Portugal. England are in 7th and Ireland remain in the top 20 teams at 18th ahead of Euro 2012.

Ranking Team
1 Spain
2 Germany
3 Uruguay
4 The Netherlands
5 Portugal
6 Brazil
7 England
8 Croatia
9 Argentina
10 Denmark
11 Russia
12 Italy
13 Chile
14 Greece
15 Côte d'Ivoire
16 France
17 Sweden
18 Republic of Ireland
18 Switzerland
20 Mexico

Full world rankings

Previous Fifa World Rankings

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

George's Premier League Predictions May 5 2012

Last time out George got 4 results right and zero perfect scores.

Saturday 5th May 2012

Arsenal 3 v Norwich 3

Sunday 6th May

Newcastle United 0 v Manchester City 1
Aston Villa 0 v Tottenham Hotspur 2
Bolton Wanderers 1 v West Bromwich Albion 0
Fulham 2 v Sunderland 0
Queens Park Rangers 2 v Stoke City 1
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 v Everton 1
Manchester United 1 v Swansea City 0

Monday May 7th

Blackburn Rovers 1 v Wigan Athletic 0

Tuesday May 8th

Liverpool 1 v Chelsea 1

Last time's Premier League predictions

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Muamba miracle makes football proud

Fabrice Muamba may never play again for Bolton or the England set-up, but his triumphant return to the Reebok Stadium last night was something out of a fairytale.

When he collapsed with a cardiac arrest on the field during the Tottenham v Bolton F.A. Cup tie on the 17th March, a whole nation feared the worst. White Hart Lane watched stunned as paramedics performed CPR and defebrilation on the pitch in full view of everyone present and watching on television. Luck would have it that an expert cardiologist was also present in the stadium.



That day, fans and players alike tweeted to urge everyone to pray for a miracle. It later emerged his heart had stopped working for 78 minutes, during which time he was effectively dead. Fast-acting doctors had ensured he had a fighting chance, although his heart did not work again unaided until two days after the initial attack, when his condition was changed from critical to serious.

A month later he was discharged from the London Chest Hospital and last night returned like a conquering hero to Bolton Wanderers.



"I am ok. I am getting stronger every day and happy to be back," said a subdued but clearly touched Muamba.

Muamba's return was as if the hopes and prayers of a nation's football followers had resuscitated him as much as the doctors had. "Even if you're not religious, pray for Fabrice", said a memorable tweet.

Football is sometimes compared to organised worship and at times like this the boundaries cross. At White Hart Lane, supporters clasped their hands as if praying to God for deliverance from death. Who knows if the collective willing of Muamba to live had an effect science has yet to explain.

But yesterday's reunion showed football's sense of community at its strongest. Sharing emotions en masse is perhaps the sport's greatest attraction. Whether the experience is good or bad, we want to feel it with others around us, and that makes us feel we belong.

The stadium rose as one to acclaim their favourite son as he rejoined them. To see an African-born son of an asylum-seeker acclaimed so joyously by so many native Britons was proof enough that football can bring out the best in humanity.

Welcome back Fabrice.


-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Record night as Real win La Liga

Wasn't this the golden age of FC Barcelona?
Real Madrid.
Barely a week ago the blaugrana were going for a clean sweep of trophies as their legend as the greatest football team of all time continued to be told.

Now Barça are out of the Champions League and have handed their Spanish title to Real Madrid with a loss to their arch-rivals at the Camp Nou.

This evening Real clinched La Liga in style by beating Europa League finalists Athletic Bilbao 3-0 away to open up an unassailable seven-point lead with two games remaining. Lionel Messi did what he could, bagging  his ninth hat-trick of the campaign  as Barcelona beat fourth-placed Malaga 4-1.

On an evening of records, Messi scored his 68th goal (46 in the league) to prise away Gerd Muller's 39-year record for strikes in one season, while Real coach Jose Mourinho won a title in his fourth different country, following league championships in Portugal (Porto), England (Chelsea) and Italy (Inter).

How does that achievement measure up?

Little-known Croat Tomislav Ivic won titles in Belgium, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal and Yugoslavia, six different nations. Ernst Happel won in his native Austria, Germany, Italy and Portugal, as has current Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Louis Van Gaal (wins in Holland, Spain & Germany) comes closest in terms of big-league wins, followed by a number who have won titles major nations: Carlo Ancelotti has won titles in Italy & England and is chasing a third in France this year, Arsene Wenger has clinched the title in France and England, while a trio have bagged Serie A and La Liga crowns - Vujadin Boskov, Fabio Capello and Helenio Herrera.

Valencia, a distant 29 points behind Barcelona in third place, qualified for next season's Champions League by beating Osasuna 4-0.

*Newcastle United continued their march towards the Champions League with a 2-0 win at rivals Chelsea.The Toon sit fifth in the Premier League, four points clear of the Blues and a point behind third-place Arsenal. Newcastle play Manchester City at home and Everton away in their final games.

The Sun.*Also in England, the Football Association has criticised The Sun for its mocking of new England manager Roy Hodgson's speech impediment. "We are delighted at the media response to Roy's appointment," FA chief David Bernstein said, "but are disappointed with the headline in The Sun, which we consider is in poor taste and disrespectful." The Press Complaints Commission confirmed it had received over 100 complaints about the front page of Rupert Murdoch's tabloid.

* Fiorentina have sacked manager Delio Rossi after a touchline altercation with one of his players. Rossi becomes the 19th coaching casualty in Serie A this season, smashing the previous record of 15 in the 1951-'52 season. Serie A has 20 teams.



* Ajax retained the Dutch title with a 2-0 win over Venlo.With one match to play they are six points clear of Feyenoord and seven above PSV. UEFA rank the Eredivisie as the eighth-best league in Europe.

*The title race in Italy is going down to the wire as Milan closed to within one point of leaders Juventus. The Rossoneri beat Atalanta at San Siro 2-0 but Juve could only draw 1-1 at home to Lecce. Juve play Atalanta at home in their final game, but must first travel to Cagliari. Milan are at home to lowly Novara on the last day of the season, but face a Milan derby with Inter before that.

The final day of the season in Italy is traditional for deals to be struck and friendship credits to be stored up, American writer Joe McGinnis was surprised to discover in his memorable book ' 'The Miracle of Castel di Sangro'.

* Ukraine is having a dreadful PR week ahead of its hosting of Euro 2012 in June. After a catalogue of delays and warnings about its poor infrastructure and UEFA boss Michel Platini labeling its hoteliers "crooks and bandits" for jacking up their room rates, four bombs exploded in Dnipropetrovsk at the weekend, injuring 27 people. Now high-level political disapproval is starting to appear.

European President Jose Manuel Barroso has said he will not attend Euro 2012 in protest at the politically-motivated imprisonment and apparent beating of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The Austrian and Croatian governments have also confirmed they will not be attending the tournament in any form and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to be considering whether to pull out or not. Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike for two weeks now.

Euro 2012 was supposed to be Ukraine's advert to the world, although with a pro-Russian President, one cannot but help wonder how much they want to impress the E.U. to the west anyway. Platini, after many a headache, will just be glad when it is all over.

- Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Olympic men's soccer 2012

Men's Football Tournament 26th July - 11th August 2012 

London Olympics.Venues -
Wembley, London   90,000
Old Trafford, Manchester  76,000
Millennium, Cardiff  74,500
St James Park, Newcastle   52,000
Hampden Park, Glasgow   52,000
Ricoh Arena, Coventry  32,500


Group A: Great Britain, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay
Group B: Mexico, South Korea, Gabon, Switzerland
Group C: Brazil, Egypt, Belarus, New Zealand
Group D: Spain, Japan, Honduras, Morocco


1st round - 26th July, 29th July, 1st August
Quarter-Finals - 4th August (London, Manchester, Newcastle & Cardiff)
Semi-Finals - 7th August (London & Manchester)
Bronze medal match - 10th August (Cardiff)
Final - 11th August (London)

Bookies' favourites in order: Brazil, Spain, Great Britain, Uruguay, Switzerland, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, Belarus, Senegal, Morocco, Gabon, Honduras, U.A.E., New Zealand.

Olympic Men's Football Champions

2008   Argentina
2004   Argentina
2000   Cameroon
1996   Nigeria
1992   Spain
1988   Soviet Union
1984   France
1980   Czechoslovakia
1976   East Germany
1972   Poland
1968   Hungary
1964   Hungary
1960   Yugoslavia
1956   Soviet Union
1952   Hungary
1948   Sweden
1936   Italy
1928   Uruguay
1924   Uruguay
1920   Belgium
1912   Great Britain
1908   Great Britain
1904   Canada
1900   Great Britain

Official schedule
Official ticketing site

-Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile